Prince Harry v Mirror Group Newspapers: Everything you need to know about the Duke of Sussex’s court case | Ents & Arts News

Dec 15, 2023 | Uncategorized

The Duke of Sussex’s court case, against Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN), the publisher of the Daily Mirror, began in May.

The joint lawsuit, over accusations of historical phone-hacking, started just a few days after his father was crowned King.

Read more:
Mirror Group apologises to Prince Harry

Prince Harry gave evidence in person in June.

Mirror Group has denied the allegations, some of which relate to when Piers Morgan was the Mirror’s editor.

The journalist and presenter has since become a vocal critic of the prince and his wife, the Duchess of Sussex.

It’s the latest of multiple cases brought against the tabloid press by Harry and Meghan over the last few years, and this is just one of several cases Prince Harry is currently involved in.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Michael Le Vell plays Kevin Webster in Coronation Street
Michael Le Vell plays Kevin Webster in Coronation Street

Who’s involved?

The Duke of Sussex v Mirror Group Newspapers took place at the High Court in London. The Honourable Mr Justice Fancourt was the judge presiding over the case.

Prince Harry was cross-examined over the allegations and criticised ex-Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who led the paper from 1995 to 2004.

Morgan hit back at Harry saying: “I wish him luck with his privacy campaign and look forward to reading about it in his next book.”

Harry’s appearance in the witness box made him the first senior royal to give evidence in a courtroom since the 19th Century.

While Prince Harry was one of the key players, as a group litigation he was not the only claimant.

The 38-year-old royal brought the action along with others including former Girls Aloud bandmate Cheryl, actor Ricky Tomlinson, ex-footballer and TV presenter Ian Wright and the estate of the late singer George Michael.

Other claimants selected for the trial were former Coronation Street stars Michael Le Vell and Nikki Sanderson, comedian Paul Whitehouse’s ex-wife Fiona Wightman and model Paul Sculfor.

David Sherborne was the lawyer representing Prince Harry.

Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror

Who are Mirror Group Newspapers?

Mirror Group Newspapers is part of the publisher Reach, which is one of Britain’s biggest newspaper groups.

Previously known as Trinity Mirror, Reach owns multiple national papers including the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Daily Star, local newspapers including the Manchester Evening News and the Liverpool Echo, and the magazine OK!

The company’s headquarters is based at Canary Wharf in London.

What’s alleged?

The lawsuit alleges that unlawful information was gathered on behalf of MGN journalists between 1996 and 2011.

MGN contested the claims and argued that some had been brought too late. Mirror Group previously accepted that phone hacking took place at its titles, and paid hundreds of millions of pounds in settlements to victims.

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Lawyers for the claimants said Harry’s case relates to a number of articles published between 1996 and 2011 including information that was allegedly obtained through unlawful means, such as phone hacking.

They said his family and friends – including King Charles and late TV presenter Caroline Flack – were also illegally targeted.

While 148 articles were initially flagged to the court by Harry’s team, only around 33 articles were considered at trial.

The prince launched the case back in 2019, but it only came to court this year.

What is phone hacking?

Phone hacking involved intercepting private voicemail messages on another person’s device. This could be done remotely, and all it required was knowing someone’s mobile number.

The hack would be carried out by ringing the number and letting it go through to voicemail – if the phone was answered, the hacker would hang up.

But once through to voicemail, the hacker would have to guess the individual’s PIN number, if they had one – which wasn’t as difficult as you might think as many people left the PIN set to the default of “0000” or “1234”.

The hacker could then listen to voicemails left on that person’s phone, writing down what was said or recording longer messages for transcribing later.

Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson before the State Opening of Parliament, in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London.
Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson

What was the Leveson Inquiry and why is it relevant?

In 2011, Judge Sir Brian Leveson led a public inquiry after it was revealed News Of The World journalists had hacked the phone of murdered school girl Milly Dowler.

Initially intended to be carried out in two sections, the first part of the Leveson Inquiry looked at the culture, practices and ethics of the press. It involved celebrities including Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller, Steve Coogan and Charlotte Church.

Part two of the Leveson Inquiry was meant to investigate the relationship between journalists and the police, but never took place. There have since been calls to re-open the uncompleted inquiry, with activists including those from the Hacked Off campaign saying such cases as this show wrongdoing within some newspapers is still taking place.

Associated Newspapers in west London
Harry has several cases against Associated Newspapers – publishers of the Daily Mail

What other legal action has Prince Harry taken?

Harry and Meghan have filed at least seven lawsuits against British and American media outlets since 2019, and the prince has pursued four cases against UK tabloids.

The royal is one of a group of high-profile figures who alleged unlawful information gathering at Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), the publisher of The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline.

The publisher denies the allegations, which include phone-tapping and bugging people’s homes. The lawsuit also involves Sir Elton John and his husband David Furnish, Elizabeth Hurley, Sadie Frost and the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence – Baroness Doreen Lawrence.

In a second libel case against ANL over an article about his security arrangements Harry was ordered to pay the Mail on Sunday more than £48,000 after he lost his claim.

He has a separate legal fight against the Home Office over the same protection issues.

And Prince Harry also sued News Group Newspapers (NGN), the publisher of The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun newspapers (as well as the now-defunct News of the World) for alleged phone-hacking.

The High Court ruled in July that Harry could not sue NGN for alleged phone-hacking and rejected his argument that there was a secret deal between the publisher and senior royals.

However, the remainder of Harry’s battle against News Group is set for 2025.

Why is Prince Harry doing this?

Prince Harry’s hatred of the British tabloid press is well-documented – he has written about it at length in his memoir Spare and spoken about it in numerous resulting TV interviews.

He has said he blames the paparazzi for the part they played in his mother’s death and vented his frustration at the “injustice” of no one being sent to jail following the inquest into the car crash that killed her.

He has also said that media intrusion was part of the reason he and Meghan stepped back from royal duties in 2020 and moved to America.

Harry and Meghan in a still taken from the trailer to their Netflix documentary
Harry and Meghan stepped away from royal duties in 2020. Pic: Netflix

Just this year Prince Harry accused members of his family of getting into bed with the devil – the tabloid press – to sully him and his wife Meghan to improve their own reputations.

He has previously described the British tabloid press as “the mothership of online trolling”, and says he is exposing alleged media wrongdoing “to save journalism as a profession”.

The prince says it’s his “life’s work” to change the British “media landscape”, making it more accountable for its actions. With a high profile and deep pockets, it’s a mission he’s started in earnest.

It remains to be seen whether the tell-all interviews, a revealing memoir and now numerous court cases assist Prince Harry in his crusade against the media, or simply fuel the fire he says he is so keen to put out.

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